UK government denies fresh delay to Online Safety Bill will derail it • TechCrunch


The UK government has denied that any new parliamentary delays in the online security bill will delay the legislation’s passage.

The legislation is a key building block of the government’s 2019 pledge to make the UK the safest place in the world to go online, and introduce system ministers who want to lead a new era of accountability over content provided by online platforms.

Politics She spotted the change in the House of Commons schedule last night, reporting that the bill had been dropped from the House of Commons business for the second time in four months — despite the US Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, Michelle Donelan, vowing to return in the fall.

The previous ‘pause’ in the bill’s progress came after (former) Prime Minister Boris Johnson was ousted as leader of the Conservative Party. during summer This was followed by a lengthy driving contest. Prime Minister Liz Truss, who won the contest to replace Johnson as prime minister (but is now also a former prime minister), quickly halted draft legislation over concerns about its impact on free speech – an area of ​​greatest attraction. controversy for the government.

then, Last monthDonelan confirmed provisions in the bill addressing “legal but harmful speech will be changed.”

A source in the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) told TechCrunch that the latest delay in the bill’s parliamentary timeline is to allow time for MPs to read these new amendments – which they also confirmed have yet to be determined.

But they noted that the delay would not affect the bill’s passage, saying it would move forward within the next few weeks.

They added that the legislation remains a top priority for the government.

A DCMS spokesperson also provided this statement in response to questions about the new delays and incoming modifications:

“Protecting children and eliminating illegal online activities is a top priority for the government and we will return the Online Safety Bill to Parliament as soon as possible.”

The government is now led by another new prime minister – Rishi Sunak – who took over from Truss after she resigned earlier this month, following a disastrous market reception for her economic reforms.

The prime minister’s change may not mean significant differences in policy approach to online regulation as Sunak has expressed similar concerns about the impact of the Online Safety Act on freedom of expression – and appears to also focus on provisions on restrictions on “legal but harmful” speech from adults .

In August, it was telegraph I mentioned Sunak spokesman (who was then Just a leadership candidate) saying, “Rishi has spoken fervently as a father about his desire to protect children online from content that no parent would want their children to see – from violence, self-harm and suicide to pornography.

As Prime Minister, he will urgently pass legislation to protect children. His concern about the bill in its current form is that it censors freedom of expression among adults, which he does not support. Rishi believes the government has a duty to protect children and crack down on illegal behaviour, but it should not violate the law and freedom of expression.”

However, it remains to be seen how exactly the bill will be amended under Sunak’s oversight.

Delays while the amendments are considered and introduced could threaten the law’s passage if it ends up running out of parliamentary time to go through all required stages of scrutiny.

Parliament sessions usually last from spring to spring. While there are only about two years left before Sunak is forced to call a general election. So the clock is ticking.

It’s already been years in the making of the Online Security Bill, and has ballooned in scope and ambition with a host of belated additions and additions—starting with Bring scam ads to the list to me Measures to tackle anonymous phishingFor example, but not limited.

Critics love the digital rights group ORG He argues that the bill is hopelessly cluttered, legally vague and incoherent wording — warning that it will lead to a horrific system of speech monitoring by private companies and automated algorithms for deaf people who will have to deploy it to cut their legal risks.

There are also concerns about how the legislation could affect end-to-end encryption if secure messaging platforms are also forced to censor content – with the potential to lead to the adoption of controversial technologies such as client-side scanning.

While the administrative burden and compliance costs will undoubtedly burden dozens of digital businesses with a lot of trouble.

Although there is no shortage of critics, the bill has plenty of supporters as well – including the opposition Labor Party, which has offered to work with the government to get the bill on.

Child safety activists and charities have also loudly urged lawmakers to go ahead and pass child protection legislation online.

The recent investigation into the suicide of British schoolgirl, Molly Russell – who was found to have binge-consumed (and algorithmically fed) content about depression and self-harm on social media platforms including Instagram and Pinterest before killing herself – has added further impetus to the cause of safety advocates.

The forensic doctor concluded The “negative effects of online content” were a factor in Russell’s death. His report also urged the government to regulate the sector.

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